Routing Tips

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by siin82, Aug 16, 2019.

  1. siin82


    Jul 10, 2019
    I am making my first bass and have no prior experience with a router. I have a good body design that I made myself and got some routing templates. I'm making practice/throw away guitars out of 4 pieces of 2x4 glued together. I've done two so far and have managed to ruin 3 routing templates (1 neck, 1 pickup, 1 control cavity). I'm using a Dewalt DWP611PK router and Whiteside bits (1/2" for neck, 3/4 for pickups, 1" for control cavity and edges).

    Any tips/advice would be greatly appreciated.
  2. Bruce Johnson

    Bruce Johnson Commercial User

    Feb 4, 2011
    Fillmore, CA
    Professional Luthier
    The #1 most important tip I can give you about using a router is: Don't try to cut too much wood in one pass. That's how people get hurt with routers.

    With a 1/2" bit, you should be cutting no more than 1/8" deep per pass. With a 1" bit, no more than 1/16" deep per pass. Most cavities take 4-6 passes, going down 1/8" at a time. Learn how to do that depth stepping, either with a fixed-base or a plunge router.

    I use a 1/2" bit for almost all cavity work; neck pockets, pickup cavities, control cavities, etc. I recommend a larger bit only for larger planing-type operations.

    How did you ruin the routing templates? Tell us what your setup was.
    Abe-of-Bass and Matt Liebenau like this.
  3. siin82


    Jul 10, 2019
    Makes sense. I'm not a patient person, so I'm going to have to take it really slow. I'll try your approach on the next test body. I have 4 more body blanks to play around with.

    I ruined templates two ways:
    1. Put the router down on the wood and wasn't holding it firm enough and the router slipped and hit the template.
    2. Had the router too high and the blade hit the template.

    I'm not sure if I'm more comfortable with the plunger or the fixed base. Seems like the fixed base is a bit easier to handle since it's less bulky.

    Thanks for the comment. Let me know if you think of anything else.
  4. dwizum


    Dec 21, 2018
    I'm often impatient too. The thing you have to realize, especially with routers, is that sometimes taking your time is faster!
  5. eddododo

    eddododo Supporting Member

    Apr 7, 2010
    1) plunge a hole with a forstner bit to start.. in fact I hog out most of a route with a forstner first. Let the router have a light load.

    2) you’ll get a feel for that, just practice lining it up and then make note of how wel your view and approach work over time.

    As a noob myself, the #1 lesson I’ve learned so far is that you simply cannot be impatient. You just can’t. I’m super impatient, but I ALWAYS screw something up if I’m trying to skip steps or ‘just get something done real quick’ or even trying to make too many tasks happen in a row- in the latter case, it’s a bit like hunger; sometimes it’s better to leave with a little room to spare than it is to just gorge. If you accomplish part of a task smoothly and you feel the need to get more done because you have an extra 30 minutes, then CLEAN UP.

    Impatience ruins my efforts, and simply by adding patience I’ve truly surprised myself with what I can do. Plan well and plan for a project to take awhile. If you can’t stay still, then either juggle two projects or become obsessive with making plans jigs and templates. There’s always something to do that can help your project go better
    wraub and Skillet like this.
  6. siin82


    Jul 10, 2019
    The patience comments are spot on.

    I just tried my 3rd attempt using Bruce's little bit at time method. I did the edge route and the neck route (don't have the templates for pickups and control cavity since i ruined mine - need to get a new one of each). Anyway, both were successful and that's the first time I completed a satisfactory/good neck pocket - clean and looked to be exactly 5/8", which is what the Warmoth neck is that I've ordered.

    Thanks all for the VERY helpful comments!

    I hope this thread helps someone in the future.
    Beej likes this.
  7. Scoops

    Scoops Why do we use base 10 when we only have 8 fingers Supporting Member

    Oct 22, 2013
    Sugar Creek, Wisc
    When routing, always keep both hands on the router!

    When using templates, make sure the template will not move on you. For body outlines, I try to screw my template to the body at points where the pickup(s) and or neck pocket is going to be. These holes disappear when you route out the cavities. For neck and pup templates, I've given up on double sided tape, and design my templates so I can have at least 2 points where I can clamp the template to the body
    MYLOWFREQ, wraub and Beej like this.
  8. Beej


    Feb 10, 2007
    Vancouver Island
    I find a fixed base more stable and easier to handle than a plunge base. I actually can't think of anything guitar related where a plunge base would be of use. I always make sure the router is sitting in place and view the bit and it's contact points before I turn it on. After routing, I always turn it off and let it come to a complete stop before I lift it off the template. I've damaged stuff by hitting it with the still-spinning router while lifting it off the work piece after routing, and that sucks. :)
  9. siin82


    Jul 10, 2019
    This point about waiting until it stops is another example of patience. I nicked my templates that way as well.

    I think I agree about the fixed base.

    I also agree about the double stick tape - I have been making sure I have a 2 clamps on the template - that's harder to do on the pickup and control cavity though.
    Beej likes this.
  10. Beej


    Feb 10, 2007
    Vancouver Island
    Another trick is to take a smaller template and use it to make a larger routing template, and then use that larger template to rout the actual holes. A larger template (i.e. piece of MDF) is easier to affix with screws outside of the body and/or clamps in better spots.

    I generally try to set everything up so that most of my concentration can remain on the cutting portion of the bit - that's enough to worry about! :D The more stable and tightly held everything is during the process, the smoother I find it goes. :)
    Huw Phillips and wraub like this.
  11. Rôckhewer

    Rôckhewer Supporting Member Commercial User

    Feb 28, 2015
    Phoenix, Arizona
    Owner/Builder- RockHewer Custom Guitars LLC
    Agreed ...DST is junk.
    But this .......does work

    I stick p/u templates down like this ^^ all the time.
    As long as the body face is flat... no problemo.
    ... no clamps to get in the way....;):smug:
    Beej likes this.
  12. 5tring


    Sep 16, 2018
    Ah ha ha

    Don’t make me give you the clamps
  13. Skillet

    Skillet Supporting Member

    Nov 25, 2011
    Beej likes this.
  14. Huw Phillips

    Huw Phillips Life is like TV if the channel sucks change it Supporting Member

    Jan 4, 2019
    I have found making templates from the original template to be helpful, as you have found it’s very easy to screw up the plexiglass ones, I unplug the router before touching the collet and find the plunge base works best slowly and as above remove as much as possible with a forester bit, safety is paramount imagine a bit coming out at speed.
    Good luck
    Beej likes this.
  15. Doc Blue

    Doc Blue

    Mar 29, 2019
    St Augustine
    The feel of the router while cutting will be different with varying wood species. A 2x4 piece of fur likely cuts easier than ash or alder or a more exotic tone wood. You've probably already felt the difference cutting through the grain of a 2x4 - through the rings and the less dense wood between the rings.

    After you're satisfied with 2x4 practice, you might do some practice routes on scrap body wood before starting the final product.
    Beej likes this.
  16. siin82


    Jul 10, 2019
    Great idea and I was thinking along the same lines. I have 3 more 2x4 body blanks to practice with, then I'll try some "real" wood.

    In case anyone was wondering, I'm practicing for two reasons:
    1. To make sure I know what I'm doing when I get to the actual body wood
    2. I'm making my own body blank from wood from my yard - I'm using California Pepper for the main part of the body (1 1/2") and the top will be Peach wood (3/8" ish). I waiting for a friend to help with the wood milling since I don't have a band saw.

    Opinions on the wood type are more than welcomed.
    Matt Liebenau likes this.
  17. I don’t have an opinion on those woods other then I’m interested to see what they look like. Despite what so many tonewood arguments might say, if they will hold a screw they’ll probably work just fine.

    Does your friend have a kiln? If not, the boards may be drying for a while. Unless they already have been drying for a while. :D
    wraub and Skillet like this.
  18. In defense of double sided tape - I use it all the time and as long as both pieces are flat and relatively smooth I haven't had one slip on me. The key is using the right tape. There is tape that is just vinyl with stick on both sides, that stuff does not work on wood, you have to get kind that has fibers in it. If you get good adhesion, it will not slip or let go, the key is making sure you have good adhesion, after sticking stuff in place I slam my hand on it. Then I test it with a good tug on the template before trusting it. If it's stuck it will not come up or twist without significant effort, if it comes off with a tug, then it's not stuck. When I want to take the pieces apart it can be a serious struggle.

    I use this stuff:
    Matt Liebenau and Skillet like this.
  19. JPDub


    Jun 6, 2018
    Wait. Are you using a bit with a bearing? Or a collet? You need something that allows you to ride your router up against the template edge without damaging it.
  20. siin82


    Jul 10, 2019
    The peach is dry; the California Pepper will need drying - I'll do it in my greenhouse.

    Btw, grain on both of these woods is quite spectacular (IMO). I'll post pics when I start the official build.
    Matt Liebenau likes this.
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